METROPOLITANIZATION OF THE STATE: TOWARDS INEQUALITY IN DEMOCRATIC 'VOICE'?

Author:Herrschel, Tassilo
 
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INTRODUCTION 1198 I. Metropolitanism and the "Rest": Democratic Challenges for the 1202 Territorial State A. Metropolitan Individualism, Competitiveness, and the 1202 Fragmentation of the Democratic Common B. Competitive Territorial Individualism Versus the 1206 Cohesive Democratic State C. Inequality Under Fragmented Spatial Opportunism? 1207 II: Competitive Urban Individualism vis-a-vis Collective 1210 Responsibilities of the Democratic State A. The Urban and the Neo-Liberal State and the Acceptance 1210 of Regional Inequality B. Cities and Governing the Complexity of Space with 1215 Territory C. Collaborative Governance as Undermining of Practical 1719 Democracy D. Cities as Elites in Democratic States 1221 E. Democracy and "Citi-ness" 1225 III. The International Oresund Region: Metropolitan-defined 1228 space intersects with state-defined territory A. The Oresund Region as Technologically Enabled and 1230 Economically Driven International Opportunity Space B. Urban-Centric Oresund Region, Peripheralization, and 1236 Marginalization C. Democratic Responsiveness and "Affectedness" in a 1237 State Is Not "One Size Fits All" CONCLUSION 1239 INTRODUCTION

The financial crash of 2008 triggered a growing critical discussion of global capitalism and its legitimacy vis-a-vis state control and popular interest. The definition and understanding of the latter has been subject to intense political discussion, as evident in the current media. (1) Advocates of neo-liberalism have begun to emphasize the benevolent effects of the markets in a Hayekian tradition, (2) where a trickle-down effect will lead to general distribution of income generation. This contrasts with the Marxist approach, which emphasizes the government's role in redistribution and curbing capitalism in furtherance of general societal advantage. The 2008 financial crisis highlighted the limited power individual state actors have in influencing internationalized capitalist developments, and, consequently, the limited sovereignty states possess vis-a-vis globalized finance. As a result, the market-based democratic state, through its government, finds itself caught between conflicting demands: acting on behalf of the electorate as its legitimator of power, while adhering to the principles of globalized capitalism with its demand for competitiveness and economic opportunity. Growing political backlash has exposed this tension over the last few years, against the backdrop of populist politicians decrying loss of political control vis-a-vis globalization and a wider popular stake in the proceeds of global capital gains.

Almost forty years of predominant neoliberal discourse in the context of globalization resulted in a shift in the perceived relative values of, and relationship between, individual and collective interests. (3) This has had the effect of pitting independently acting, opportunity-chasing metropolitan centers against the broader collectives represented by the democratic state. Rather than feeling confined to the horizons staked out by their respective state territories, cities are now increasingly defining their ambitions, and likely their opportunities, through their functional and political interrelations within specific interest-based, self-organizing, collaborative networks. (4) Simply being content with what is available in a particular territory no longer suffices for cities reaching outward.

Inequality, metropolitanism, and elitism have become closely associated in recent populist, nationalist rhetoric, which attacks globalization and multilateralism as not being in the interest of "the People." Nationalist sentiment has risen as part of that rhetoric, as evidenced by the ascendance of starkly right-wing parties across Europe. (5) The election of Donald Trump as United States (U.S.) president, the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom (U.K.), and the new populist "anti-establishment" Italian government (6) are examples of an anti-globalist and anti-metropolitan backlash by those feeling resentful of being "left behind"--a term frequently used in the press and public debate (7)--as the rewards of economic globalization appear to reach some more than others. (8)

Although much of this resentment is economically driven, it also reflects a sense of loss of democratic voice in political decisionmaking. This appeal for voice becomes expressed in support for individual political parties, and, more broadly, for a representative democracy through participation in elections. (9) Questions abound over the functioning of representative democracy and its ideal of egalitarian representation of the populace. (10) As economic experiences are linked to the principles of liberal democracy, support for liberal democracy may be waning with shrinking economic rewards. The populists express what a growing number of people may have thought since the austerity politics after the 2008 financial crash (11): Does democracy work for me? Will the promised trickle-down effect materialize for me? (12)

The issue concerns a central organizational principle: network-based, metropolitan interests, or territorially bounded state interests? States now can allow cities to shine globally, to make the most out of their visibility and appeal--on the understanding that the rest of the state will also benefit further down the line as a trickle-down effect. Alternatively, states may seek to maintain (or increase) the cohesiveness of their respective territories and insist on treating the cities as just one part of the municipal tier of administration at the sub-national level, firmly integrated into the administrative and political hierarchy.

This Article addresses the conundrum of an increasingly apparent mismatch between two geographic entities--those economically and those politically driven. The former is a mere virtual backcloth to a network of hubs (here, the cities) and spokes (the economic and political relations), while the latter is a contiguous territory defined by circumfusing boundaries. The economically driven geographic entity involves growing territorial variations in economic opportunities, whereas politically defined territoriality draws on the egalitarian principle of democratic representation in a liberal democracy. The Article examines the challenges arising from the growing mismatch between the two geographies for democratic governments, with cities suggested as crucial connectors between the two. Specifically, this Article will use the case study of the Danish-Swedish Oresund Region to highlight the interaction between the international sphere, and the state, region, and city levels, as they compete in a globalized economy. The examination of this case study will accentuate this Article's main argument that the central role of metropolitan areas and larger cities is to function as connectors between the two geographies--the collaborative, network-based and the territorially defined. Metropolitan regions, in particular, function as the primary foci of national competitiveness in a globalized economy. Yet, they also act out of self-interest, not merely as agents of the state or region. This puts them at the forefront of political criticism--for placing self-interest above the collective interests of the nation or region. Metropolitan areas are thus experiencing growing popular political pressure to reconcile economic self-interest and political belonging to a larger entity--the nation or region.

This Article argues that linking formal territoriality with informal spatiality may generate synergy effects. In other words, it means to connect (1) the pre-defined formal territorial organization and distribution of state power, resources, and democratic legitimacy for action, and (2) more fragmented informal spaces loosely and temporarily circumscribed by self-organizing and selective networks of like-interested actors (e.g., the cities). This includes the dynamics and responsiveness of more ad hoc-forming, interest-based collaborative groupings and networks. Scope for, and interest in, such integration, however, varies.

This Article is divided into three main parts. Part I discusses the growing gap between political and economic spaces as a result of the way in which competitiveness has pushed for the fragmentation of economic spaces within states and regions--and its implications for democratic legitimacy and sense of mattering among the electorate. Part II takes a closer look at metropolitan areas as primary actors, as well as indicators of the growing discrepancy between economic and political geographies within a state territory. The focus is on the role of metropolitan areas and cities not only in driving competitiveness, and thus individualism, but also in functioning as connectors and agents of state-territorial cohesiveness to avoid political fragmentation and alienation. Part III is divided into two parts. Section III.A looks at the example of the international Oresund Region between Denmark and Sweden to illustrate the processes and tensions discussed in Parts I and II. Section III.B teases out possible avenues for resolving the conundrum between individualism-driving economic competitiveness and the collective, egalitarian ambitions of representative democracy.

  1. METROPOLITANISM AND THE "REST": DEMOCRATIC CHALLENGES FOR THE TERRITORIAL STATE

    This Part discusses the growing fragmentation of the territorially based democratic common--frequently, the state--through competitive action by cities in response to neoliberal globalized capitalism. These fragmentations challenge established notions and practices of representative democracy, with its underlying egalitarian principles in getting one's voice heard in political decisions. A growing division between cities and metropolitan regions, as most likely competitive "winners" and the less successful "rest," raises questions about the fragmenting and, ultimately potentially hollowing-out, effect of...

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